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Study with your health, not against it

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Now in its 8th year this partnership and resulting forum is going from strength to strength, becoming bigger and better with each progressive year to deliver a forum aimed at enhancing the transition support and engagement of secondary school students experiencing chronic illness. The success of this event is testimony to the hard work, regular meetings and dedication of the staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), Ronald McDonald Learning Program (RMLP) and Livewire who together with the LLEN implement continuous improvement principles into the partnership each subsequent year.

Every year over 350 young people aged 12–19 are engaged by the RCH Transitions Service team, which provides holistic (including education) transition support to help them; remain engaged in education, pathway from secondary school to further education and pathway from paediatric to adult care if required and build skills such as selfadvocacy regardless of a health condition and/or disability. Approximately 250 of these young people have long absences from school due to their illness which impacts their capacity to finish school in the usual timeframes and their self-belief of what they are capable of in terms of their secondary schooling and post school options. Our partners identified and recognised the concerns and questions from young people transitioning through their services and found gaps which included difficulties getting information around VCE Special Provision, VTAC’s Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS), vocational education and training options, scholarships and disability liaison officer support at universities and TAFEs. This need informed the development of our first forum.

In 2016 the forum was held on the 21st of June at the Victoria University Convention Centre city campus with over 170 young people in attendance. The forum is divided into two section with separate presentations tailored specifically for young people, and parents and teachers. Our MC who delivered the welcoming address was Mark Howard, a Network Ten sports reporter who entertained the audience with tales of his pathway into his current position and the pitfalls in his job.

The other presenters included:

  • Professor John Polesel, Professor of Education and Associate Dean International students at the University of Melbourne, Post School Transitions. John manages a range of research projects focussing on upper secondary education and transition from school, his research includes issues of inequality, the relationship between schools and vocational training and how these relate to future employment prospects.

  • Michael Ciesielski, Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC), Special Entry Access Scheme, how to apply, when to apply, tips and information about the process

  • Headspace – how to recognise early signs of mental illness and what to do about it, what’s normal teen woes and what’s not

  • Peggy Soo, Youth Disability Advocacy Services (YDAS) – How to study with a disability, what supports are available at university and how to access them

  • Adam Whitbread, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) – Career Pathways and Vocational Studies.

Earlier in 2016, the City LLEN team met up with Peggy Soo from YDASS, together with her lovely seeing eye dog Tessa we were taken with Peggy’s positive engagement approach to supporting young people and realised she would be a great addition to this forum and were so pleased when she agreed to be present during the market stall time and provide a presentation to the attendees. During the dinner break attendees were busy asking questions of our market stall organisations, these included: RCH Centre for Adolescent Health – ChiPS, Headspace, La Trobe University, RMIT University, National Disability Services, Careers Consultants, Distance Education Victorian, RMLP, Victoria University, Victorian Curriculum & Assessment Authority (VCAA), YDAS and the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC). In response to feedback and the questions from parents in the Q and A session last year, the LLEN instigated and organised the inclusion of a Centrelink representative to be available to answer questions and provide advice to students and families in terms of their entitlements for government support.

Students received a show bag designed by a young person who has been a long term patient at the RCH which included a variety of flyers and information to further support engagement and transitions, many of which were prepared by the LLEN. As per every other year, as well as local students, other patients from the RCH come from across Victoria and so many schools were represented at the forum.

Our annual event Study with your health, not against it is back this July for Year 11/12 Students.

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